The legislative session ended on a quiet note on May 12. As highlighted in my May 9 note, Missouri State University did very well regarding the final budget. Again, we’re grateful to our supporters in the House and Senate.
This General Assembly passed a record low number of bills. None of them were related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The House added DEI language to the operating budget bills. This language was stripped as the budget worked through the Senate and failed to be re-introduced during the budget conference process between the House and Senate.
Sixty-four pieces of legislation were passed during this session; 19 were budget bills and five were concurrent resolutions that do not have the force of law like a bill.
Of the remaining 40 pieces of legislation, 33 were Senate bills (meaning they originated in the Senate) and seven were House bills.
An early priority established by Gov. Parson and the General Assembly was to address certain transgender issues. The General Assembly passed SB 39 banning gender transition treatments and surgeries on minors and SB 49 prohibiting students from participating in athletic contests using a sex other than the sex stated on their birth certificate.
The General Assembly did not pass legislation addressing many topics like critical race theory, DEI policies and practices, or environmental/social/governance policies and practices in investment and procurement. We expect these issues to reappear next year accompanied by a more cohesive effort to get them passed.
A review of DEI-related initiatives
As I noted a few weeks ago, we have more employees and students of color now than we did when I began as president of MSU.
More importantly, our programming, facilities, climate and culture are better as we work to close achievement gaps for student groups who have historically graduated at lower percentages than the student body as a whole. We’re also working to become an employer of choice for all.
Sometimes we’ve classified the initiatives that have helped us achieve progress in this area under the “diversity, equity and inclusion” umbrella even though they benefited people of all backgrounds. The Bear Bridge mentoring program is a good example of that.
We have the opportunity over the next few months to review these many, many initiatives to ensure they:
- Support all our students in a way that continues to help us close the achievement gap.
- Make us attractive to future faculty and staff.
We’ve already determined very few of our support offerings and programs are exclusive to a particular group of students. Those that are will be modified to be more inclusive.
To be clear, this process will not impact academic programs that focus on diverse topics. Whether African American Studies or European History, these courses provide our students with the opportunity to become well-rounded citizens.
As we maneuver through this challenging landscape in the coming months, our goal will be to provide a welcoming learning climate where all students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to be successful.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State.